The Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion met last week for a special presentation from John Windhausen, who represented the Schools, Health, Libraries and Broadband Coalition. As an advocate for broadband service, the SHLB Coalition works closely with the FCC to expand broadband capacity nationwide to better serve cities and communities. Their community-related efforts have included E-Rate and dark fiber, the rural healthcare program, infrastructure legislation and education broadband service.
The E-Rate program was started by the FCC in 1996 to connect all schools and libraries to the internet. At that time, less than 15% of schools in the U.S. were connected to the internet. It succeeded, and in December 2014, the FCC released a second E-Rate order to improve the program by providing more funding for fiber, expansion of networks and longer pay-back plans. The SHLB Coalition has consistently supported community voices by submitting comments and writing letters to the FCC.
The Rural Healthcare Program was another FCC project, the goal of which is to address the crisis of healthcare access in rural America. Funded through the Universal Service Fund and other FCC funds, the program has been capped at $400 million annually. The SHLB has advocated that the cap be raised through a reallocation of FCC funds.
The Educational Broadband Service was also created as an arm of the FCC to expand 4G service for educational purposes. The EBS provides educational service providers with discounted bandwidth and broadband providers. In the last decade, the SHLB Coalition has been advocating for more fiber around schools and for schools themselves to be [nodes? Service providers?]
Generally, the SHLB Coalition has been a representative of average Americans at the national level. During the presidential transition, the SHLB Coalition was at the front door of the White House and the FCC, urging them to include broadband in the new infrastructure investment decisions.
This consistent representation is exactly why Windhausen attended the Coalition meeting.The SHLB Coalition wanted feedback on the partly SHLB-funded Kansas City Broadband Plan, and how SHLB could continue to assist Kansas City in spreading broadband further.
Suggestions from KCCDI members included continued advocacy for digital inclusion. A common theme in these meetings is that money should go toward awareness of digital inclusion and its importance, which continues to be underestimated in the larger community.
“There is a lack of recognition in the business community that digital inclusion efforts are workforce training,” said Rick Usher, the Assistant City Manager of Kansas City, MO.
The Coalition will be meeting again Friday, November 3, 2017.